The Go Mental! journey started in March 2020 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, just a few days before the first lockdown in Germany.
Elisabeth: “After forging my path as a filmmaker in the United States, I returned to Germany with the desire to contribute to a festival that would make mental health its priority. In the US I knew plenty of festivals dedicated to this issue. So I had no doubt that there must be something of the sort in Berlin as well. After a quick research, I realized that there was in fact no such thing. This left me shocked, confused and rattled. I was thinking. How can it be? Even before I had moved to the US, I knew that mental health was not really the favorite topic on the societal and political agenda. But surely, something must have had changed. As it turned out, it didn’t. There was no doubt in mind that if there was not the change I wanted to see, I had to become it. The next day, I went to an independent filmmakers’ group meeting where people were pitching their projects. I went up and introduced the idea for the Go Mental! Film Festival and luckily for me, I found just the right person to collaborate with.”
Maria: “When Elisabeth presented her idea for the festival I was hooked and immediately raised my hand to say how much I liked the idea and that I would love to support it. It felt like this was the project I was always looking for without even knowing it."
Together we started working on the project through several skype and zoom sessions during the lockdown, whilst getting to know each other and becoming good friends as well. We developed the concept, created a website and an Instagram page, started organizing monthly live talks with interesting guests, and planned the festival premiere in May of 2021. In the summer of 2020, we started to expand our team as well.
Mental health is an important issue to us in both our personal and professional lives and it is our understanding that it deserves the same care and attention as physical health. Thereby, we align ourselves with the definition of health by the World Health Organization stating that “[h]ealth is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. We have realized that in Germany the topic is still treated as a taboo. People who are affected do not feel comfortable or empowered speaking about their issues or getting treatment. In some cases, the latter is further complicated by the lack of qualified professionals. Therefore, people are oftentimes left to their own devices. Additionally, societal stigmas attached to certain mental health conditions contribute to that. It is our firm belief that this kind of treatment of mental health is only worsening an already bad situation.
Maria: “I was still a child when I started realizing how important it is to talk openly about mental health. My parents both struggled with depression and PTSD without ever seeking help from a professional. As I grew up I became increasingly aware that I had become their therapist, because I was the only one dealing with their mental health. Of course this was a burden for my mental health as well, so I sought help for myself. It was through therapy that I learned how to deal with my parents' issues. I realized that I couldn't change them, but I could change my own behavior towards them. I believe that a child should never become the therapist of its own parents and that is why I became an advocate for mental health, aiming to create more awareness in our society.”
Elisabeth: “Mental health has been an issue close to my heart for as long as I can remember. Though, I realized early on that it is oftentimes treated like a secret. Something that is kept hidden. Below the surface. While I have always considered myself openminded towards therapy and suggested it to a lot of my friends and family who were struggling, it was not until I went through that process myself that I truly understood how hard a step it is to take. Especially in a society that so heavily stigmatizes or shuts down conversations on mental well-being. It takes courage to address something that influences your everyday life in ways that seem invisible to an outsider but are burdening you deeply. Through therapy I learnt how to self-reflect in a different way and I realized that I had been struggling with high-functioning anxiety. Being able to call it what it was, felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and it empowered me to improve the quality of my life overall. With more openness and authenticity, I believe that we can all contribute to making communities and societies healthier and stronger.”